26 January 2008

Hiding behind the bales....

This just came in from Alex over at Shedworking...

Castle hidden behind bales of strawBy Lucy Cockcroft
Last Updated: 6:42pm GMT 25/01/2008
A farmer has been ordered to tear down a castle he had hidden behind an enormous stack of straw for four years.
Before and after: the castle built behind a wall of straw
Councillors had no idea the building, complete with ramparts, turrets and a cannon, existed until the barricade of several hundred 8ft by 4ft bales was torn down.
Robert Fidler, 59, spent two years constructing his dream home behind the straw shield before moving in his wife Linda and their son Harry, 7, in 2002.
The father-of-six says he built the structure out of despair after applications to construct a home on his farm in Salfords, Surrey, were repeatedly turned down by council planners.
He hid it from view hoping it would be considered legal after standing for four years.

Shocked neighbours reported Mr Fidler as soon as they saw the structure, which cost £50,000 to build.
Now council officials have insisted it must be bulldozed.
Mr Fidler, who lives in the castle with wife Linda, 39, and son Harry, seven, was issued with a planning enforcement notice in March 2007 by Reigate and Banstead Borough Council and ordered to demolish the building and return the land to its former use.
The 59-year-old argues that the castle is now legally allowed to exist because it has been "substantially completed" for four years, and says he is determined to protect it.
The farmer has applied to the council for a Certificate of Lawfulness which can be sought after a development has been in place for at least four years without planning permission.
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Mr Fidler said: "I can't believe they want to demolish this beautiful house. To me it [the council] is no different from vandals who just want to smash it down.
"But I'm not worried because I don't believe I've done anything wrong.
"We moved into the house on Harry's first birthday, so for the first few years of his life he grew up looking at straw out of the windows.
"We thought it would be a boring view, but, in fact, many birds nested in the straw and feasted on the worms.We had several families of robins and even a duck made a nest and hatched 13 ducklings on top of the bales.
"What we had anticipated being a very uninteresting view out of our windows turned out to be a fascinating garden with all sorts of natural visitors."
Construction of the covert castle, which took two years to build around two disused grain silos, began in 2000 after Mr Fidler had built walls out of hundreds of bales of straw and covered the top with blue tarpaulin.
Neighbours were dumbfounded after Mr Fidler,who had lived in the castle for four years with his wife and son, unveiled his home by removing the straw in the spring of 2006.
Council bosses issued a planning contravention notice in March 2007, ordering the building to be demolished and the land returned to its former use.
Mr Fidler,who has appealed the enforcement notice, started fighting the order at a public inquiry which began at Reigate Town Hall on Wednesday.
Mr Fidler is fighting the borough council over 12 enforcement notices in total, which include the construction of a go-kart track on his 195 acres of land.
A Reigate and Banstead Borough Council spokes-woman said: "The site is located on the Green Belt and the developments constitute inappropriate development, which is harmful to the openness of the Green Belt."
After the inquiry, if the Secretary of State grants permission for the development, all enforcement notices issued by the borough council will be quashed.
However, should the ruling favour the borough council, Mr Fidler and family would have six months to move out and demolish their "dream" castle.

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